Alchemists are the proto-scientists and chemists of the period of the game. They study the ways in which the physical and spiritual worlds interact through natural science, philosophy and even a smattering of the spiritual principles of Metaphysics. Speculation on the nature of the Universe, on the hidden natures of both mineral and organic substances, often absorbs them. The work of the Alchemists encompasses both of what are known today as inorganic and organic chemistry, as well as pharmacology, geology, theoretical physics and a smattering of “Natural Philosophy.” From a very esoteric, philosophical, and spiritual point of view (to avoid confrontations of faith) they seek to classify the elements with their dialectic, Aristotelian reason and logic. Empirical test and study are considered to be neither the scholar’s method nor the medieval way of thought, except in the pursuit of specific projects (not whole, transferrable concepts). They explore the secret spiritual natures of physical substances through their special skills, to evoke or imbue spiritual properties, create elixirs (derived from the Arabic for the Greek for “dry tincture”), potions, philters, powders, unguents, salves, and a wide variety of other similar unique substances, to make life a little easier or simply for the sake of accumulating knowledge.
In the pursuit of their arts, Alchemists make a common study of the physical properties of substances; the effects of applying heat and cold, their expansion with heat and contraction when cold, the fact that water is the exception to the rule, expanding as it freezes. They know of the weathering process, the properties of erosion and the resulting deposition, currents and tides, and the like, the changes that decomposition brings, the heat it generates, the actions of various sorts of acids. The lore of the earth is of special interest, too; the soil, such as that special soil used by artists to make their green-earth color; gems and stones like lapis lazuli ground for use in making the finest blue hues for painting, rocks, metals, crystals, ores such as sulphur, cinnabar (mercury ore) ground by artists to make an intense red hue; how they interact with fire, water, and air; the nature of carbonization, the uses of ashes and soot, like the lampblack (literally soot from a lamp) used by artists as a pigment; their properties, and how best to handle them, especially in extracting their virtues.
The Alchemist’s “Speculum”
Even though Alchemists are almost indelibly associated with scholasticism, the Alchemist Simple Trade can be considered as either a set of skills acquired from among the broad and diverse curricula of the universities OR the product of a formal, traditional apprenticeship, instead (player’s discretion), bringing an entirely different flavor to the character’s background. In order to have a formal university education as the source of an Alchemist Simple character’s Trade knowledge, the player must equip him/her also with a formal Scholastic Trade. In this case, he is presumed to have graduated as a Magister (Masters) in Natural Philosophy & Metaphysics.
Whether a player decides his character’s knowledge of Alchemy stems from formal scholastic pursuits at university or a more common traditional apprenticeship, this Trade represents no less a scholarly disposition and frame of mind.
As a reflection of the trade’s scholastic basis, every Alchemist is required to put his Linguist, Literatus, and Scrivener skills to good use during the course of his education/apprenticeship in keeping records of his lessons and lab work. By the time he completes his doctorate or apprenticeship, he has also compiled a Speculum,
The Speculum is an encyclopædic overview of the Alchemist’s art, knowledge and skills, a notebook of all known materials and substances, their appearances accompanied by meticulously rendered illustrations, their characteristics, common origins and usages, and also a wide variety of recipes or formulæ for many common substances and compounds (as follows).
This is This is a source book of trade knowledge kept on hand for general reference, containing knowledge to guide further exploration of the arts, and to aid in managing and coordinating the lore he gathers regarding the specific Trade Skill specialties.
The main volume of the Alchemist’s Speculum contains (AWA x 10) + [(TR) x (40 – AWA)] pages.
Over the course of time spent earning each TR, once brought into play, the Alchemist is assumed to accumulate an additional (40 – AWA) pages (on average) of scribbled notes, thoughts, insights, theories and discoveries to add to his Speculum.
In additional to this volume, the Alchemist is required to keep another journal or notebook for the knowledge of the specific Trade Skill specialties (chandlery; scents and perfumes; pigments and dyes; combustibles; caustics; drugs, poisons and venoms; substances prepared to carry an enchantment; etc.), a separate volume for each, but nonetheless also considered to be part of his Speculum.
Each Trade Skill volume of the Speculum has (40 – AWA) + [(AWA) x (Trade Skill SL)] pages in it.
Over the course of time spent earning each SL in each Trade Skill, once brought into play, the Alchemist is assumed to accumulate an additional (40 – AWA) pages (on average) of scribbled notes, thoughts, insights, theories and discoveries to add to his Speculum.
IF the Alchemist has the Herbal and/or Apothecary Trade(s) and/or the Forage Life Skill, the player must add those TR’s and/or SL’s to his Alchemist TR for the initial volume in determining the number of pages and also to the SL’s of the individual Trade Skill specialties for each additional volume of his Speculum he must keep, for these broaden the depth of the Lore the Alchemist possesses regarding the secrets of the Trade and the individual Trade Skill fields of study.
Once brought into play, the Alchemist Simple character is expected to continue to keep his Speculum after the fashion of a journal, recording his on-going work and researches, every project he has completed, his successes and failures, over the course of his career, used as a reference to consult as he formulates new projects, and to refresh his memory when he wishes to repeat old ones.
The character is responsible for maintaining all his Speculum volumes as he rises in TR and SL’s, so it’s important he makes sure the materials are kept on hand for maintaining these records, and that they are replenished when the increases in his SL’s indicate those materials have been depleted.
To exercise his Trade, the Alchemist Simple must have a lab to work in.
This consists of a hodge-podge of beakers, terracotta, glass and metal vessels, vials, flasks, scales, weights, measures, alcohol lamps, mortars and pestles of various sizes, various sorts of tubing or piping, an astrolabe, alembic, furnace, crucibles, etc., as described for the Alchemist’s Lab in Appendix D.1.
Despite the fact that this Trade is called Alchemist “Simple”, it encompasses quite a portfolio of capabilities. The above equipment is required to perform the main functions of his alchemical arts: Calcination, Coagulation, Fixation, Dissolution, Digestion, Distillation, Sublimation, Separation, Ceration, Fermentation, Multiplication, and Projection.
Calcination involves heating a substance in either an open or closed vessel, usually resulting in oxidation, often to produce a black, carbonized substance of some kind. The process and the substances it produces are ruled by Aries, a fire sign.
Congelation and fixation are the processes used to make a substance stable and solid, non-volatile, processes ruled by Taurus (earth) and Gemini (air). These are an essential step in the pursuit of the elusive Philosopher’s Stone, as the volatile liquid mercury was thought an essential element.
Dissolution and digestion are processes of washing and purifying, ruled by Cancer (water) and Leo (fire), respectively. In the pursuit of the White Philosopher’s Stone that produces silver, these processes were used on the substance in the alembic to wash, whiten and purify.
Distillation and sublimation are used to render and recondense the vapor or essence of a substance, in reflux distillation, ruled by Virgo (earth) and Libra (air), respectively.
Separation can include such processes as filtration, decantation or distillation of a liquid from its residue, ruled by Scorpio, a water sign.
Ceration is a process whereby a material is made soft and wax-like, ruled by Sagittarius, a fire sign.
Fermentation is the special process whereby a slow, subtle “digestive” heat is created within a substance, so the special properties of the substance can manifest, ruled by Capricorn, an earth sign. This process is essential in the working of alchemical magick, and in preparing substances to contain a magickal charm, but it is also used to describe the process by which these substances work to transfer their influence when used in the material world. In the process of creating the Philosopher’s Stone this was one of the last few steps, when the nature of the Stone truly began to manifest.
Multiplication is the process used to augment the power of the substance so it can be used many times over, generally ruled by Aquarius, a water sign. This step consists of manipulating any number of other processes to infuse additional power into a substance.
Projection is simply the name for the process of reducing a substance into the form in which its power is finally applied to its task: powder, salve or unguent, potion, elixir, etc.
These terms are not really necessary to the successful use of the Trade under the rules of the game, however. The Alchemists’ traditions and arts are cloaked in fancy, esoteric terminology and allegories to conceal their lore, as they were historically. These processes are traditionally only ever discussed in terms of not only their ruling signs but their ruling planets, and the mythological figures for whom the planets are named. All of this subterfuge was deemed necessary to protect the secrets of their Trade from the curiosity of laymen. It is included here primarily for the benefit of roleplaying the Alchemist character.
While they are intimately associated with things magickal and mysterious, an Alchemist Simple’s knowledge of the above processes (among others) enable him to brew, concoct, distill, render, etc. (as applicable) many of the common, mundane substances or materials used or produced by a number of different more “ordinary” manufacturing trades. The Alchemist, Simple in particular focuses much on the knowledge and practices of these trades, as well as a few of the more rare, dangerous, and/or exotic substances (depending on what other Trades the Alchemist’s full portfolio includes, as follows).
The craft of Chandlers, the pursuit Chandlery, is one of the more common among Alchemists, Simple, producing soap of citrus, glycerin and rosewater, or caustic soda and animal fat (tallow) or high quality olive oil, and/or candles of all qualities, bayberry, tallow or rushlights, are an easy product of the Alchemist’s skills. While there are common artisans that specialize in one or the other, it is by no means unusual for a craftsman to make both, for they both traditionally use tallow.
Lacquers, Varnishes and adhesives may include a number of such substances, utilizing the bonding properties of wheat, or egg, but commonly involving rendering animal carcasses down for Glue or spirit gum, also providing cleaning substances such as lye and fuller’s earth, highly acidic verjuice, wood ash and caustic soda (used for doing laundry).
The strength of the bond a glue makes is measured by a STR score, just like a character, equal to the POT of the substance made (player’s choice) if it is for paper, cloth, wood, and other porous organics. The STR of the glue is equal to half the POT if it is to affect china, brick, stone, or metals.
Glues can be made so as to be water-soluble after drying, or not, but the player must state which he is making at the time and make a note of that fact when he records it on his equipment inventory, otherwise you should assume it is water-soluble.
Oftentimes the STR of a glue bond is greater than the effective strength, or Structure Points, of the items glued together, making getting them apart again impossible without extensive damage, barring the use of magick.
Drying times are equal to the STR of the bond, counted in minutes. The stronger it is, the longer it takes to set up, also. This can be shortened by as much as (Alchemist’s AV)%, maximum 60%, at the Alchemist’s option by the use of alcohol or a petroleum distillate as a solvent, but this makes it highly flammable when wet, also.
As GM, you determine the drying or setting-up times for glues using the extent of the surface area covered and the STR of the glue as discussed previously. The thickness of glue applied and how still and tightly the items glued are being held, the humidity, all affect the time to set-up and cure, especially if you feels these factors are not being adequately addressed by the user(s) in-game.
Judging how much glue is required for each use and when a character finally runs out of the amount prepared is entirely up to you, as GM.
Rendering dyestuffs and pigments is another area, processing, concentrating, mixing to obtain signature hues, even foraging for the substances or even raising plant matter from which pigments are obtained. While an alchemist may specialize in pigments, paints, hues for dyes, etc., it is to supply the dyers who put them to use, perhaps in conjunction with a merchant manufactory.
Cosmetics and Beauty treatments are another area of concentration, encompassing a range of substances drawn from many disciplines, especially including pigments, like lacquer for nails; henna and other tints for hair; heavier foundations to conceal minor imperfections in the skin, or even wax-based sculpting or modeling putties to correct structural imperfections (also used in the Masquer skill); cremes, foundations, in a wide variety of tints and tones to complement and even emulate each of the humanoid races in each of the complexions from as pale and fair as a Nordic Viking to Mediterranean olive, golden as an Asian, brown as a desert-dweller, or even as dark as a Nubian, and in each of the color ranges (sallow, medium, and robust).
This specialty also includes the colors for shadowing and detailing eyes and lashes, and/or the highly colored face paints in the seven colors of the rainbow for adding fanciful motifs for holidays and special occasions (hearts, flowers, twining vines and leaves, heraldic animals and devices, etc.). Spirit gum from the Adhesives specialty can be used for applying jewels or other small ornaments to the face/body/skin.
Extracting essential oils and compounding incenses, potpourri (“rotten pot”), herb-steeped scented oils, moisturizing lotions and cremes and other beauty treatments, and/or producing actual perfumes form another area of concentration. This area of expertise is often combined with that of the Chandler and/or Cosmetics and Beauty. Having the knowledge of the Herbal Trade as well can provide the Alchemist Simple with some independence from procuring his supplies from other Herbals for use in these preparations, especially if he also knows how to Forage for his own materials, which his knowledge as an Herbal then equips him with the knowledge to process and preserve for future use.
By their arts, Alchemists can manipulate the spiritual properties of a wide spectrum of substances in order to create what are, for the sake of simplicity, called “potion” bases. These are unguents, salves, elixirs, potions, philters, powders, crystals, magick beans, and a wide variety of other similar substances or items specially prepared to be receptacles for magick. These have no magick of their own but can accept the power of magickal charms, regardless of whether cast by the Alchemist himself or by the hand of another. These hold the power of the charms safely and keep them stable until their power is needed.
In the same vein, so long as the Alchemist is a practitioner of magick, he may make the special candles, incenses, chalks, powders, brazier fuel, and other obscure preparations that make up the consumable supplies called “ritual supplies”, needed to cast Low Magick rituals for his trade, BUT only for those charms he himself knows, UNLESS he is provided with the recipes by the client for whom he makes them.
IF he is provided with the recipes and has sufficient materials to do so, he may concoct ritual supplies for ANY magick-wielding trades and charm.
Like the ritual supplies described in Appendix D.1, those made by the Alchemist are described in terms of POT. The higher the POT of a given packet of ritual supplies he makes, the greater the POT of the ritual that can be performed with it, as charms are rated in the same points of POT. The alchemist may only make supplies to cast one specific charm at a time, but the actual amount of POT made in any given exercise of this skill is up to the player. The greater the amount made at any given time, the higher the DV.
The materials to make ritual and rite supplies cost 1s. 2d. 1hp. per point of POT in magick that can be cast with it.
IF the Alchemist is also equipped with the Herbal Trade and the Forage Life Skill, he can save 4d. 3fg. per point of POT in the cost of materials by venturing forth and gathering some of them himself.
IF the Alchemist is also equipped with the Apothecary Trade and the Forage Life Skill, he can save 5d. per point of POT in the cost of materials by venturing forth and gathering some of them himself.
This allows a total savings of 9d. 3fg. per point of POT, reducing the cost of materials to 4d. 1fg. per point of POT.
The Caustics & Combustibles Trade Skill is only available to those Alchemist Simple who are also equipped with the Apothecary Trade.
This encompasses rendering and purifying treatments for creating such things as torches and flambeaux to flash pots and/or smudge pots. These can be combined with knowledge of pigments (above), so flashes or clouds of colored fire or smoke are produced.
The Drugs, Venoms & Poisons Trade Skill is only available to those Alchemists Simple who are also equipped with the Herbal Trade.
This enables the Alchemist to bring the stability and shelf-life inherent in the Alchemist’s works to the Herbal’s healing salves, elixirs and simples, in addition to bringing the a depth of knowledge enabling him to make such things as paralysants, stimulants, sedatives, truth serums and soporifics.
This is a very dicey area of expertise to allow others to become aware of. Public knowledge leaves the character open to socially damaging accusations and law suits, even if only as a means of harassing the Alchemist and damaging his reputation and thus his business.
Each of the areas discussed above (Chandlery, Finishes & Adhesives, Cosmetics & Beauty, Pigments & Dyes, Scents, etc.) comprises a separate specialty defined by a Trade Skill that must be developed and tracked in SL, and maintained individually by means of SP’s.
An Alchemist Simple is able to render quantities of these common substances according to the potency of the substance; soaps and candles of Chandlery by the pound, cleaning solutions, glues and scented oils in gills, or perfumes and cosmetics in drams.
The greater the number of units (pounds, gills, drams, etc.) the character attempts to make in any given project, the higher the DV for the exercise, and the greater the cost. The costs for rendering common substances must be determined by what it is the character is doing, according to the ingredients (GM’s discretion), the specific substances with which he is working, because the options are so varied.
The base DV for making any of the substances described is equal to the number of drams, cups, gills, or pints, or pots, that he makes in a single exercise (according to the measure in which the substance is discussed above), or gill of waterproof glue. To this, add the POT of the substance being made, such as glue.
For making a glue that is essentially waterproof, the effective STR is equal to the POT, and also provides the base DV. The DV is raised by 1/2 (multiplied by 1.5) for the waterproof feature of the substance.
The DV should be doubled (multiplied by 2) to make it invulnerable to saltwater (seawater/brine). For every effective point by which the STR for the purposes of determining the glue’s drying time has been lowered by solvents with high evaporation rates to speed drying, the DV should be increased Progressively.
For making ritual supplies, the base DV is equal to (2 per points-worth of POT) made. The quantity made is particularly important in determining time requirements, for it will increase the time needed when larger amounts are made. In the case of ritual supplies, the POT also IS the measure of quantity, as discussed in the rules on Low Magick (rituals) in the Grimoire.
The time required to make any of the common substances described here, from start to finish including the processing of raw materials (as applicable), is equal to the DV for the task, read in mileways, EXCEPT for ritual/rite supplies. For making ritual/rite supplies, the DV is divided by 2 and the time read in hours.
Because dabbling in the more rare, dangerous, and/or exotic areas of alchemy can be very expensive, most “common” Alchemists Simple make their living by focusing on making one of the families of products mentioned above, represented by most of the Trade Skills, to sell for their daily bread. This supports any private researches, but such pursuits are not that common, especially among those plying the more “common” Alchemist Simple Trade.
*the Alchemist must also be equipped with the Apothecary Trade as a prerequisite for this Trade Skill.
**the Alchemist must also be equipped with the Herbal Trade as a prerequisite for this Trade Skill.
† indicates that up to (AWA ÷ 4) skills in number of this type or category are allowed, among which the Scholar’s Tongue (the game world analogue to Latin) and Philosopher’s Tongue (the game world analogue to Greek) must be included.
Of that number, the character’s Native Vulgar or “Milk Tongue” tongue, the Scholar’s Tongue (analogue of Latin), and the Philosopher’s Tongue (analogue of Greek) must be included first. What slots are left after these are accounted for may be filled with other languages of the player’s choice, as desired.
The players have no obligation to equip their characters with the full (AWA ÷ 4) compliment of these skills – with the understanding that they are NOT allowed to fill them in retroactively, after they have already brought their characters into active play, just because they WERE allowed them during the Character Creation process.
* This serves as a reminder that the additional areas of knowledge and skill that are the result of university training are to be represented by also equipping the character with the Magister scholastic Trade.
Assess & Identify
The Alchemist’s skills naturally includes the ability to Identify or Assess substances or materials and the constituents that make up compounds.
The Alchemist is best served exercising this ability in his complete, home lab, which allows him the advantage of his full TR, but also requires he have the complete collection of his Speculum volumes to consult.
Using his abbreviated travel/field lab, an Alchemist is only allowed the benefit of 3/4th’s his full TR,
The Alchemist may attempt a raw Field Assessment at only 1/2 his full TR.
The Alchemist must have at least his main, general reference Speculum with him in order to make Field Assessments.
For identifying or assessing various substances, elements, and basic compounds out in the field without equipment, the att mod. is based on the Alchemist’s AWA score, and the TR used to find the AV, unless one of the Trade Skills is a better more accurate choice and has a SL higher than the TR.
IF working in a fully fitted lab, the att mod. for identifying various substances is based on the character’s AWA score.
The character must have at least [30 – (AWA + 1 per 4 TR’s)] drams of any given substance to test for its identity.
For concocting, mixing, distilling, or compounding any substance of the alchemical arts the att. mod’s are based on the character’s AWA and CRD scores.
The base DV for identifying substances and compounds depends on the origin of the materials. If the material or compound to be identified is common, found around the average household like tallow, lye, soap, offal, cotton, wool, flax, blood, ashes, verjuice, iron or steel, lead, copper, tin, brass, or any oxide of these common metals, various household cleaning compounds, and so on, the base DV is 1.
Those sorts of things found around the yard or out-buildings, like hemp, different kinds of hide, common household garden vegetables and herbs, plants producing common country dyes, different kinds of woods, and so on, have a base DV of 5 to identify. The character require only a relatively small sample of these substances to identify them, just enough to get a good smell, feel, and/or taste sample of it to be sure of it (GM’s discretion), and they may be identified in the field without special tests.
For compounds more common to towns, like commercial dyes, inks, artists’ pigments, sealing wax, pitch-based and other building sealing compounds, and the like, the base DV for identification is 10. The character requires a larger sample of these things to identify them, a handful or more on which to run tests.
For those substances containing materials that are not native to the surrounding terrain or region the DV may start at 15. The character needs a lab to properly identify the compound, though field identification may be attempted at half AV.
You should feel free to raise the DV if you feel the sample the character has isn’t large enough, perhaps by as much as 5, or 10 for things found outside the house, 20 for compounds.
The time required to identify common substances and making identifications in the field is equal to the DV for the task, read in minutes; for compounds tested in the lab the time requirement is divided by 10 and again read in minutes.
Canning & Storing
The Alchemist’s skills also give him the ability to “can” and store those substances his Trade Skills allow him to make that have a limited shelf life and put them up. He may “can” or “put-up” as much as he can secure materials (heavy pottery or glass pots/jars) and facilities to handle. The character must have lids for each vessel, and requires 0.25 lb’s of wax to seal each one. The containers used in canning should be no larger than 1 quart in volume each.
Once put up, the canned perishables last (1 per 4 TR) years before their shelf life comes into play and they begin to age and then go bad. Once the seal is broken on a canned perishable its shelf life again commences to pass normally.
The costs for canning is 1 ha’penny per gill per pot/jar and 2 pence per jar for sealing waxes, plus the costs for whatever it is the character is canning (as applicable). The costs of the pots/jars is a one-time investment, after purchased they only need to be replaced as broken, and the character then only has to pay for the wax, and perhaps the items to be canned.
Most of the substances made by the Alchemist, even such simple compounds as cosmetics, have a shelf life of only [(AWA + CRD) ÷ 8] + (SL) weeks before they begin to separate, go rancid, or lose their potency. This doesn’t, of course, apply to such simple, stable things as tallow or fine-milled soaps, cleaning solutions, or the like.
Note that those substances that slowly lose their potency dry out and lose fluids vital to their effect until they are reconstituted through the Alchemist’s art. Those substances that simply lose their potency lose 1 point of POT of their effect per (SL under which made) days they age beyond their shelf life.
Due to the importance of having an extensive knowledge of plants, the products of the earth and animal kingdom, and their properties to creating the various substances with which the Alchemist Trade is concerned, all Alchemists are schooled in the Lore of Herbs and the Lore of the Apothecary.
Indeed, the Herbal and Apothecary Trades are closely, almost intrinsically, Allied with the Alchemist Trade.
IF a player also chooses to equip his Alchemist with the Herbal and Apothecary Trades does he also know how best to handle them the materials and substances, to prepare them, to extract their virtues, and also to render them into the forms best able to preserve their virtues for later use.
The movements of the energies and influences of the heavenly bodies have a direct influence on the work of Alchemists, especially as they are expressed by the Correspondences studied by the Astrologist, which Trade is closely Allied. Researched properly, the astrological Correspondences provide a tool to lower the DV’s for making any of the substances the Trade Skills allow, as mentioned.
IF a player also chooses to equip his Alchemist with the Forage Life Skill, his Lore includes the knowledge of where to find the minerals and herbs he needs, what rock types and formations to look for, what parts of the beasts, and the habitats in which they may be found, when to pick or hunt them.
The Forage skill extends the knowledge of any Trade to which its lore may be applied to include these facets, too.
Without the Forage skill, an Alchemist cannot take advantage of the benefits foraging for his own materials provide. The Forage Life Skill may represent a convenience and greater degree of independence, but it is a convenience and independence that frees the Alchemist from the need to procure his materials from local foragers, huntsmen, woodsmen, apothecaries, and the like.